Celebrating the creative spirit, idle dreamers and the wild at heart, Nelly’s handcrafted pieces were born out of a desire to combine her love of drawing and contemporary design with traditional jewellery making techniques.
Read what inspires her and her creations.
Backyard Opera: Who is Nelly?
Nelly Phelan: I am inclined towards an existential response in that I am still figuring it out! I think understanding yourself is a lifelong journey and pretty fundamental to understanding the world around us and other people.
BYO: Your bio states that you have a love for drawing, did you study fine arts?
NP: No, I’ve never had any formal training, just something I have always loved to do. I fine it very meditative and peaceful.
BYO: What made you want to work with jewellery?
NP: I have always worked in the music and fashion industries so working in a creative environment has been second nature to me. Being in this environment I have learnt so much about the process of design so when it came to creating my own designs, it felt like a natural progression. It sounds a little esoteric but I started working with jewellery in particular because it kind of found me.
BYO: And so how did Idlewild come about?
NP: I had a sabbatical in Ubud where I did a jewellery making course. I loved everything about it, particularly the way in which the Balinese used traditional hand crafted jewellery making techniques that have been passed down over generations. Seeing a beautiful piece of jewellery come to life from a flat piece of silver metal was really inspiring.
BYO: You draw inspiration from symbols of ancient cultures, dreams, rituals, fairy tales and fables, why do you think your creativity is triggered through fantasy-like subjects?
NP: My academic background is psychology. When studying I was drawn to the work of Carl Jung and the way in which through his work he demonstrated how there are dream symbols we share across cultures despite many of these different cultures having never met. I love the way how as humans we read symbols on a daily basis, whether through our dreams or going about our daily lives. We are rarely conscious as to what meaning we draw from these symbols, yet they inform how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. Dreams are so often defined as fantasy yet I think there are often truths revealed in our dream symbols.
BYO: How do you apply this inspiration to your work?
NP: I feel jewellery represents this interaction, how we are drawn to a particular style and what it symbolises to us, without always knowing why. I guess it is a fascination with the conscious and unconscious life and how they are represented through symbology and our connection to objects, whether in contemporary society or ancient times.
BYO: Have you always been a free spirit?
NP: Yes, I think so, my partner calls me a gypsy!
BYO: Where did the name Idlewild come from?
NP: I’ve always loved the name and I had vague recollections from when I was a child of seeing the movie adaptation of the book, Anne of Green Gables. In the story, Idlewild is a quiet meeting place surrounded by a ring of white birch trees where Anne and Dianna play. In their Idlewild they have reimagined a broken piece of glass from a lamp as fairy glass full of “young little rainbows”. I really love the imagination of childhood and I have fond memories of my own childhood where I would imagine little worlds full of colour and adventure.
BYO: There have always been ethical issues surrounding the jewellery industry, as a jeweller, how do you ensure that ethical standards are practiced and promoted?
NP: I am lucky to have found a family owned business in the magical area of Ubud in Bali, Indonesia. Amongst their many creative talents, the Balinese have a long history of silversmithing and they use traditional skills in crafting jewellery. I think it is important for designers to visit the place where their designs are made to ensure the people creating their designs are living well and working in a supportive and respectful environment. My values are based on mutual respect and I am always grateful when people purchase my designs, in supporting Idlewild they are also sustaining traditional craftsmanship and the families who make each design.
BYO: What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t doing this?
NP: A full time dream interpreter!
BYO: Your jewellery is all very beautiful, I really dig the Orbiting Star pieces, which would you say is your favourite piece?
NP: Thank you! Stars are a reoccurring theme in my designs, such a powerful symbol! I think the Adinkra Divinity necklace is one of my favourites. The Divinity symbol is drawn from an ancient visual language of the Akan people from West Africa and signifies sanctity of mother earth, unity, love and harmony. I also like the mix of gold and sterling silver, the mash up of materials is a creatively fun space to play in.
BYO: Who would be your dream person to sport your Idlewild pieces?
NP: I really love Natasha Khan of Bat for Lashes, such great style and an amazing performer
BYO: And finally, what does the future hold for Idlewild?
NP: I am looking forward to designing the next collection, collaborating with people I admire and ranging the collection in some of my favourite independent boutiques.
For your own pieces of handcrafted dreams, visit www.idlewild.com.au